Cold Spring Trail
From the trailhead...
There are two starting points for Cold Spring Trail. I find that the easier starting point is not at the rusty metal sign at the west side of the creek crossing, but at the Montecito Trails Association Sign on the east side. Careful starting this hike at this point because there are two trails starting a few feet apart from one another. The steeper trail is not described here, but makes a nice, steep hike that eventually meets Cold Spring Trail again for a pleasant and short loop.
The Cold Spring Trail immediately climbs some steep, wooden steps. The trail continues through refreshing creekside scenery.
At about 1/4 mile you reach a bench and a junction with the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail. Continue past the bench and junction, heading uphill.
There are some stream crossings that may be a bit difficult after heavy rains. The trail crosses the stream two separate times, then climbs switchbacks up to a junction with a dirt road (Hot Springs Rd.) with some power lines. If you are tall enough, there are good views of Montecito and the ocean. This is the mile and a half mark.
The Cold Spring Trail continues by taking the fire road to the left (east) for a few hundred feet. Look to the left for a small sign marked trail and continue steeply uphill.
At just under 2 miles, look down into the canyon to the right and see the old ruins of the Hot Springs resort.
At 2 and 3/4 miles, there are Eucalyptus trees with a makeshift bench for resting and taking in the views.
At about 3 and 3/4 miles look to the right for a small trail that goes up to Montecito Peak, elevation 3214ft. This trail is steep and in shale, making for a tough climb to a triumphant summit. Somewhere up there is a log book inside a box for recording your summit. There are breathtaking views 360 degrees around you. You can see other hiking trails from this vista, including San Ysidro Trail, part of Romero Canyon Trail, and Cold Springs East and West Fork.
If your destination isn't to summit Montecito Peak, continue on the trail until it meets with East Camino Cielo Rd. at the 4 mile mark. There is a rusty metal sign, a parking spot and a water tank at this spot. Cross East Camino Cielo to get a good view of the remote back country. The Trail continues across the road to Forbush Flat, a nice spot for an overnight back pack.
To return, go back the same way you came.